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Jeep Compass 2021 Review: The nattily upgraded family car returns to form

A completely-overhauled interior and reworked exterior highlights the Jeep Compass’s intent to take on competition with renewed vigour.

February 28, 2021 / 11:35 AM IST

Not long ago, a friend of mine purchased the pre-facelift Jeep Compass upon my insistence. Naturally, this meant that I had to field a rather awkward phone call when the new one broke cover.

I told him that all wasn’t lost and that he still had a perfectly capable SUV that was genuinely off-road capable (exactly what he was looking for). I told him not to bother with gimmicks that come with every mid-lifecycle facelift because the core product remains unchanged. I must admit, I wasn’t being entirely honest.

The new, facelifted Jeep Compass feels significantly superior on the inside, than its comparatively pedestrian predecessor. Yes, the original 2017 Jeep Compass has always been a terrific product, an outright segment conqueror until it was recently eclipsed by the Kia Seltos.

Pound-for-pound, there was no beating its outright off-road capability. The new one takes that, and dials up its on-road appeal by giving the interiors a complete and eye-popping overhaul. So let’s start by evaluating the most important change.

The Interior

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Everything inside, apart from the seats has been replaced. A new dashboard,a new steering, a new centre console featuring a new 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system that connects to Apple Carplay or Android Auto without needing a USB cable. Last I checked, that was only available in more premium forms of luxury. It’s not just the fact that everything has changed, it’s about how much better everything has become. The quality of the double-stitched leather on the dashboard, the contours of the steering, even the bit of faux leather covering the dash looks to be in pretty good nic. The touchscreen is a noticeable improvement over the previous infotainment unit - this one is bright, sharp and relatively quick to respond to finger jabs. The overall mix of piano black, chrome and leather festooned surfaces go a long way in making the Compass feel, dare I say, premium.

The centre console sits a bit higher this time, with the usual bevy of USB ports and sure enough, a wireless charging tray. The laundry list of features is rather long and exhaustive. Cooled seats, buttons to engage 4WD low, hill descent control 4WD lock are all there along with a neat little switch to toggle between off-road modes. There are eight-way powered seats, a 360-degree parking camera and an enormous panoramic sunroof if your passengers fancy a spot of stargazing in the wee hours of the night. Just don’t pop your head out of the sunroof, for heaven’s sake because it’s illegal and extremely dangerous. There are also added inclusions to the car’s overall safety apparatus. For instance, even when slotted into ‘Drive’ the car doesn’t budge unless the driver has belted-up.

The Exterior

Changes to the exterior are less noticeable and pronounced, but they’re there. The front grille has been reworked. Thankfully Jeep has spared it the chrome treatment and instead given it a much more rugged and understated shade of anodized grey, going nicely with the equally subdued shade of green adorning the test vehicle.

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Your eyes are immediately drawn to the new diamond-cut alloys, a fancy pair of dancing shoes that gives the Compass a more gentrified vibe (not that it was in need of one). The roof is now a stark shade of black and outback, you can, should you look for it, spot a tailgate closing button - a new and welcome addition to an already heavy features list.

The Drive

Now that we’re done with the broad, sweeping changes, it’s time to return to familiar territory: the powertrain. The Compass gets a bruiser of a 2.0-litre, turbocharged diesel engine making a healthy 169bhp of power along with 350Nm of torque. The engine’s mated to a 9-speed automatic, which really gets into top-form halfway the cogs, at which point it feels smooth – especially with conservative throttle inputs. The lack of paddles behind the steering can be felt quite strongly, especially when the downshifts aren’t called-for and the up shifts take too long.

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Suspension has been beefed-up to an extent in order to make spirited driving over rough surfaces, an easier endeavour. With the McPherson strut girding its loins, the car’s on-road dynamics have also improved considerably. It doesn’t like to be rushed, nor is it particularly engaging to drive, but it is remarkably plush.

Keep the throttle pushed down and the build-up of torque, while gradual and linear does give the Compass considerable momentum. The Compass doesn’t thrill, not when its on-road, but its proportions seem optimal for the city and its measured but steady doses of torque and power make for a good daily driver. It never loses composure at high speeds and remains sure footed, yet light at the same time.

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The appeal of the Compass has always lied in just how well it marries true off-reading ability to good on-road driveability. It’s entry and departure angles immediately give away its pedigreed family history. Even when the car debuted, Jeep invited us over the marshy backwaters of Goa, where even the 2WD Compass took no time to clear boggs and boulders, along with short stretches of slush.

Verdict

Yes, the updated Jeep Compass has a lot going for it. It’s fantastically well-equipped, has genuine go-anywhere capability and doesn’t seem to be one for compromise. But at an ex-showroom price of Rs 28.29 lakh it’s expected to be that good. If it’s a bigger SUV you’re keen on with an additional row of seats, yes, one can be acquired for the same price. But it will, in all likelihood, feel agricultural when compared to the Compass.

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Its direct competition might come close, or even exceed it in the refinement department, but they don’t have the Compass’ versatility or its supple ride. The Compass (S variant) comes with a very clear set of advantages that have been made clearer thanks to its spruced-up interiors. If its priorities resonate with you, it is the family car to go for.
Parth Charan is a Mumbai-based writer who’s written extensively on cars for over seven years.
first published: Feb 28, 2021 11:35 am

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